I like all of the sonic ingredients that go to make up Faith's Blessed?: the sound of the guitars, the riff patterns and the lead guitar soloing; I like the lush symphonic style of the keyboards; the violin; I enjoy Christer Nilsson's strong vocal performance; the cleanness of the production, the clarity of the sound. It's all good stuff and when it all comes together then Blessed? is a joy to listen to. Unfortunately, however, there is also a downside in that occasionally the tempo becomes too slow for me to enjoy this type of music. For me, a very slow tempo requires certain attributes that are not present on Blessed?.
Swedish band Faith describe themselves on their MySpace page as "Metal/Down-tempo/Progressive". The first and the last I understand, but I was unaware that "down-tempo" had become a genre. Perhaps their record company's description of "doom metal" is more accurate but, whilst I'm not an expert in this genre, this music overall does not strike me as being dark, melancholic or despairing enough to qualify as "doom". "Down-tempo" is actually a better description for the opener, "Blessed Void of Bewilderment": what bewilders me though is why any band should choose such an uninspirational start as the lead into the album. It actually begins really well, the gentle violin leading to massed symphonic keyboards and guitar but this soon subsides, giving way to a pedestrian metallic soundscape, that is close to "doom" but is just too labored to be enjoyable. Towards the end the keyboards come back in again and the band bring a bit of variety to the riffing, just about saving the song - but for me it's my least favorite on the album and the wrong choice to put in "pole position". It somehow affects how you react to the rest of the album.
Elsewhere there is some very enjoyable music. "Big Red, Nebraska" benefits from having the tempo raised just a few beats per minute and is an enjoyable, straightforwardish metal song with a political message. The instrumental "Polska efter Ida i Rye" then brings a surprise, mixing a jig with the metal sound, giving you folk-rock (or folk-metal?) by any other name. It's good! ("Jig" is perhaps a misnomer - the 16th century "polska" is a simple triple time dance of Scandinavian origin. It is much older than and should not be confused with the 2/4 time polka - some 80% of Swedish folk tunes are in polska time).
"Necropolis" is also very enjoyable, mixing metal, symphonic keyboards and Gregorian monk chanting! I'm still not quite sure what the connecting thread between these elements is but the song is very effective. The music then becomes a bit less progressively minded, the rock more straightforward but without ever becoming boring: indeed there's some good riffing and some good lead guitar soloing. The polska - not very fast you understand! - returns on the closing number, "Leipzigpolska", the mix with the metal elements again working well.
Overall, it's a pleasing album that is nudging towards a four-star ranking without quite making it...perhaps if "Blessed Void of Bewilderment " had been omitted or placed immediately after one of the polskas then I might have been persuaded to award the higher ranking. It's still a good album though and should appeal to metal fans who don't mind a slower tempo and like a bit of eclecticism in their music. Looking at it narrowly,and perhaps unfairly, they have perhaps taken a lead from Opeth's adventurousness. Being more generous, what Faith show is that same sense of love and enthusiasm for their music that makes them experiment with sounds and different musical forms: in short, they are the kind of band that continues to make the musical world an interesting one. They are the kind of band that keeps us exploring and listening, again and again.
1) Blessed Void of Bewilderment (8:21)
2) Big Red, Nebraska (4:51)
3) Polska efter Ida i Rye (2:22)
4) Necropolis (6:22)
5) Twilight (6:08)
6) Condemned (3:55)
7) Father Pious (6:14)
8) Never go to know (5:57)
9) Leipzigpolska (6:04)